A Media Critique on the Recent Coverage of Russia

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By Michael Averko

Saturday’s Feb. 10, BBC telecast to the US portrayed an “aggressive” Russian President Vladimir Putin “lashing out” at the US during a weekend gathering in Munich. The White House was then quoted as being “disappointed” with Putin’s comments. This BBC segment had an excerpt of an interview it conducted with Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov. Ivanov claimed a one sided American approach to handling global trouble spots.

No example was given to support Ivanov’s view. The BBC frequently utilizes this tact, leaving not so informed viewers with unanswered points of relevance. To fill in the blank on this particular: an American official recently visited Moscow with the brazen attitude that Kosovo could be independent and that the basis for such didn’t apply to pro-Russian former Soviet territories in dispute. There’s nothing “aggressive” about that stance? Forget about the BBC doing a comparative breakdown to review whether Kosovo has the best case for independence (which it doesn’t, as those familiar with my commentary know).

The mentioned BBC segment ended with Arizona Senator John McCain welcoming Putin’s candor, while believing that the Russian president was aggressive. Talk about role reversal! Those on the Russocentric side who are familiar with McCain, are well aware of his overtly Russia and Serbia unfriendly statements over the course of time.

A Sunday Feb. 11, New York Times article uncritically described CIA Director Robert Gates’ statement after Putin’s address as taking a high road for seeking an end to what Gates termed was Cold War language on Putin’s part. This makes no sense whatsoever. With two competing superpowers during the Cold War, there was less of a uni-polar world. Putin’s Munich commentary is against one power dictating to the rest of the world (not to be misread as Putin seeking a return to the intense bi-polar rivalry of the Cold War).

At the Munich meeting, Putin firmly stated that any solution on Kosovo must have the full support of Serbia. Too bad he didn’t add that Trans-Dniester should receive prompt international recognition as an independent state. In addition to some leading American foreign policy politicos outside of government, how many times has the neo-conservative/neo-liberal influenced Bush Administration said that Kosovo has a “unique” case for independence unlike Trans-Dniester and some of the other disputed former Soviet territories? (mind you, I’m not lumping the disputed former Soviet territories as having the same degree of legitimacy)

Ever since the breakup of Yugoslavia – German mass media at large has been decidedly anti-Serb in its slant. Arguably more so than what’s evident in Anglo-American mass media. The Serb population in Germany is small when compared to that country’s Croat and Muslim populations. Germany’s being on the losing side in two world wars against Serbia might further explain the bias as well.

This slant was shown in a recent Der Spiegel interview with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. When Lavrov noted how UN Resolution 1244 calls for a return of Serb military personnel to Kosovo – Der Spiegel shot back with a – that’s unreasonable quip. The interview left that point without follow-up. To fill in the blank: it’s not unreasonable for Serbia to have its troops and government staff on Serb territory. UN Resolution 1244 calls for both. Kowtowing to the law of the jungle is a bad model (in this instance, basing one’s decision on how Albanian nationalists will behave if they don’t see their agenda supported).

A related bias is shown in the Western non-sympathy for Trans-Dniester’s view. Romania is a recently inducted EU member which actively backs Moldova’s hypocritically applied Soviet era border claim on Trans-Dniester. Unlike Trans-Dniester – Romania was also an ally of Germany during World War II.

In the background of these biases is the Berlin-Moscow relationship. The present reveals how the two can be on relatively good terms with each other, while maintaining different historical sympathies towards some others on the European continent. The last decade saw Germany re-ignite its WW II relationship with Croatia as Russia showed its historical favoritism with Serbia. In some instances, the vestiges of two world wars appear to linger on.


Michael Averko is a New York based independent foreign policy analyst and media critic. In addition to Sean’s Russia Blog, his commentary has appeared in the Action Ukraine Report, Eurasian Home, Intelligent.ru, Johnson’s Russia List, Russia Blog, Serbianna, The New York Times, The Tiraspol Times.